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Assistant treasurer racks up AU$2,000-a-month internet bill footed by taxpayers

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(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

Gaffe-prone Australian Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert is being scrutinised again after charging taxpayers more than AU$2,000 a month for his home internet bills.

Robert was only returned to the federal frontbench a few weeks ago, after he was sacked in 2016 over a trip to China for a mining company he was financially linked with.

But now, the federal government is scrutinising his AU$90-a-day home internet bills, which are dramatically higher than those of all other MPs.

“I’ve asked the special minister of state to report back to me,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Friday.

“Once I’ve heard from the special minister of state, then we’ll take the next step.

“I think [voters would] want an explanation, and that’s why I’ve asked for one.”

Robert’s May bill alone totalled AU$2,832, while the vast majority of other MPs spent under AU$300 a month, and most about AU$100 a month.

Parliamentary expense records in the three months to May show Robert spent more than AU$2,000 a month on average for his Gold Coast residence.

The Queensland Liberal MP told Fairfax Media that connectivity issues were responsible for the high charges, because he had to use a wireless service as cheaper connections were unavailable when the service was installed.

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Your tax dollars at work

“I went and checked my most recent reports; it’s about AU$100 a month,” Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

“There is no doubt that Stuart Robert is a very controversial figure, and that controversy seems to follow him.”

Robert last week confused debt and deficit in a TV interview, and was caught taking a selfie when the interview began.

Labor MP Graham Perrett, who pays less than AU$100 for an unlimited internet deal, said it’s “bizarre” that the assistant treasurer can’t do better.

“Any normal person would be making a call to their internet provider to work out what’s going on,” he told Sky News on Friday.

The assistant treasurer said he racked up a high bill in May because he used 300 gigabytes of data, so he had to pay for extra data after exceeding his 50GB limit.

Robert has been charging taxpayers more than AU$1,000 per month for data at his home since 2016.

“My family home is located a significant distance from the telephone exchange, resulting in poor broadband internet connectivity,” Robert said in a statement late on Friday afternoon.

“At the time, a 4G home Wi-Fi internet connection was the only way to receive reliable and stable internet access

“My internet, like many in semi-rural areas, was previously unreliable, which interfered with my ability to perform my parliamentary and ministerial duties.”

The NBN’s rollout map shows building has begun in the Gold Coast, where the assistant treasurer’s electoral office and postal address is located.

Robert confirmed that he has an NBN installation appointment booked.

“When installed, this will result in an immediate drop in costs to a level similar to other parliamentarians.”

The treatment of Robert has contrasted sharply with the attitude of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who in 2014, when he was Communications Minister and had responsibility for the National Broadband Network, famously roused on a member of the public who complained about a lack of fixed-line broadband.

“Just curious:- if connectivity was so vital to you why did you buy a house where there was no broadband available?” Turnbull tweeted at the time.

Speaking in June 2016, disgraced former Deputy Prime Minsiter Barnaby Joyce claimed that internet speeds of 25Mbps were good enough for Australians living in regional and remote parts of the nation.

A week earlier, then Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Christopher Pyne mirrored the same sentiment.

“They simply didn’t need the speeds that Labor was promising,” Pyne said at the time.

This week, NBN revealed that more than 1,500 of its fixed-wireless cells had at least one service downloading more than 1TB of data during the month of May.

Despite this, NBN said in response to a Senate Estimates Question on Notice that it had forecast to have less than 1.4 percent of fixed-wireless users on the 100/40Mbps speed tier by 2022, before the company ripped up plans to offer such services.

As the national broadband wholesaler looks to end its discount at the end of this month that attempted to move users from lower speeds up to 50Mbps plans, retailer Aussie Broadband told ZDNet that ISPs will need to choose between offering high- or low-speed tiers, as they won’t be able to do both.

“Aussie has chosen to play in the higher end of the market using the new bundled offering exclusively, as it provides sufficient CVC capacity to ensure a good experience for customers,” Aussie Broadband MD Phillip Britt told ZDNet on Thursday.

“In our view, it will not be possible for providers offering a service under AU$55 a month floor price and an unlimited offering under AU$69 using the bundles.

“Providers below this price point will most likely be short-changing their customers on the CVC bandwidth provisioned.”

With AAP

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2021 Range Rover Evoque gains new technology and refinement

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Land Rover has announced the 2021 Range Rover Evoque. For 2021, the vehicle gets more refinement and enhance technology. It’s now fitted with the Pivi Pro system as a standard feature bringing a redesigned intuitive menu structure with the most popular features and functions accessible from a single home screen.

Land Rover says that the design of its Pivi Pro system allows users to access functions in two taps or less. The 2021 Evoque is also available within Online Pack with a data plan featuring integrated Spotify within the infotainment menu for the first time. The system is also able to connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to phones at the same time.

Smartphone users also have available wireless smartphone charging with signal boosting capability. The vehicle features a dual-modem embedded SIM allowing for scheduled vehicle software updates over the air. That means no visiting dealerships to have the software updated when needed.

2021 Evoque buyers can also get an optional Advanced Cabin Air Filtration system designed to filter out fine particulate matter, allergens, and strong odors. The system also displays interior and exterior and quality information. Land Rover fits the vehicle with the newly expanded suite of driver assistance technology, including a standard 3D Surround Camera and available Rear Collision Monitor.

Multiple models will be available in the US, starting with the Evoque S P250 featuring a 2.0-liter turbo inline-four-cylinder engine making 264 horsepower and 269 pound-foot of torque. The base 2021 Evoque S P250 is priced at $43,300. A total of five models are available, with the most expensive being the Evoque R-Dynamic HSE P250 featuring the same engine starting at $53,400. The prices exclude the $1050 destination and delivery fee. There are several options available that can drive the starting price up significantly.

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2021 Honda N-One minicar goes on sale in Japan

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Honda’s second-gen N-One minicar (Kei car) is now on sale in Japan. According to the Japanese carmaker, the all-new N-One is available at Honda dealerships across Japan beginning November 20, 2020.

First seen in 2012 together with the quirky Honda N-Box, the N-One spearheaded Honda’s next generation of small city cars for the Japanese market. The 2021 N-One has retained the ‘circle, square, trapezoid’ design idiom of the outgoing model and is now available with more standard safety features and driving tech.

Standard in the new N-One is Honda Sensing which includes automatic high beams, collision mitigating braking system, false start prevention, traffic sign recognition, road departure mitigation, lane-keeping assist, and plenty more.

Additionally, manual-equipped versions of the N-One are the first mini vehicles in Japan to feature adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. Also standard in the N-One is a rear seat reminder feature to alert the driver of unattended objects, pets, or children in the rear seats.

The new Honda N-One is a proper mini car. Measuring 11.14-feet (3,395 mm) long and 4.84-feet (1,475 mm) wide, the second-gen model retains the familiar styling cues of the outgoing version with clean lines and round headlights similar to the Honda E electric car. However, the new N-One has larger front air intakes, LED headlights, and a black horizontal strip in the rear bumper.

The interior, however, is as fresh as morning dew. The N-One has a larger infotainment screen, a new instrument console, and a new steering wheel with control switches and buttons. Typical of a Honda, the cabin has a bevy of USB ports, cubby holes, and storage pockets for maximum convenience.

The 2021 Honda N-One is available in base, premium, and RS trims. Standard fare is a 660cc three-cylinder naturally-aspirated gasoline engine with 58 horsepower, front-wheel drive, and a CVT gearbox. The RS trim has a six-speed manual transmission mated to a turbocharged 660cc motor producing 68 horsepower. All-wheel-drive is optional across the board.

Honda’s newest N-One will only be sold in Japan. Base prices start at the equivalent of $15,406 (¥1,599,400) based on current exchange rates.

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Ford Bronco R conquers the 2020 Baja 1000

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The second time is the charm for the Ford Bronco R prototype. Last year, the Bronco R was unable to complete the Baja 1000 due to mechanical failures. But this year, Ford’s second attempt at conquering the 1,000-mile off-road endurance race is a successful one.

“When Bronco returned we said it would follow in the legacy of the first-generation Broncos that forever changed the off-road landscape – and today’s finish demonstrates we’re continuing the ‘Built Wild’ pedigree of Bronco,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance motorsports.

Driven by a team of seasoned off-roaders led by Cameron Steele, Shelby Hall, Johnny Campbell, Curt LeDuc, and Jason Scherer, the Ford Bronco R prototype crossed the finish line in just over 32 hours. And unlike last year, the Bronco R was accompanied by a pair of drool-worthy support vehicles in its quest for off-road supremacy: The F-150 Raptor and a 2021 F-Series Super Duty Tremor truck.

Ford’s racing history is brimming with stories of triumphant comebacks. After dealing with instability issues, engine failures, and plain ol’ bad luck in its attempt to unseat Ferrari’s dominance at Le Mans, the Ford GT40 came back with a vengeance. Ford broke Ferrari’s impressive five-year winning streak at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. From that point forward, the GT40 won the endurance race consecutively for the next three years until 1969.

Meanwhile, the Ford Bronco has an illustrious legacy at Baja. The first-gen Bronco won five Baja 1000 class wins from 1967 to 1972, and it also won the first-ever overall production 4×4 class win in 1969. Additionally, second to fifth-gen Broncos scored two Baja 500 victories in 1970 and 1973 followed by nine Baja 500 Class 3 wins from 1004 to 2015.

Ford’s Baja-conquering Bronco R prototype is built atop the T6 chassis of a production-spec Bronco. It also has the same 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine and 10-speed automatic gearbox as the production variant. More than a quest for glory, Ford is using this year’s race as a chance to optimize the ‘Baja Mode’ for its new Terrain Management System – a feature of which customers can enjoy once the all-new Ford Bronco arrives at dealerships in spring of 2021.

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